Donte Jackson likens swagger to Beyoncé song: 'I woke up like this'

Donte Jackson had a goal to break the NFL combine 40-yard dash record of 4.22 seconds Washington wide receiver John Ross set in 2017. He fell short at 4.32. Chuck Burton/AP Photo

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cornerback Donte Jackson had just ended a short-but-colorful interview during last weekend's rookie minicamp when Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera took center stage with the media.

"Did he just quote Beyoncé?" Rivera asked with a grin.

Nods followed.

The quote came when Jackson was asked if he morphed into a superhero on the football field like former Carolina cornerback Josh Norman -- aka his alter persona, the "Dark Knight" -- did when he put on his jersey.

"I don't really do the superhero things," Jackson said without hesitation. "It's natural. It's your edge. It's kind of like Beyoncé says, 'I woke up like this.'"

There's another reason Norman's name came up. Swagger.

Since Norman signed with the Washington Redskins two years ago, Carolina hasn't had a player in the secondary bring the attitude and outward confidence Norman did from his rookie season of 2012 through his Pro Bowl year of 2015.

Jackson checks that box, a big one for the Panthers when they drafted the 5-foot-11, 175-pound dynamo in the second round out of LSU.

"You see it on the field. You see it when you talk to him," Rivera said. "You watch in his gait, the way he carries himself. That's the type of attitude you have to have to play this game. You have to have a certain kind of swagger.

"Josh Norman had it. He had it from Day 1."

Jackson's personality definitely stood out on Day 1, more so than his speed -- 4.32 seconds in the 40-yard dash -- and playmaking ability. He walked into the middle of a horde of reporters with veteran-like confidence and a nonstop motor in terms of bringing the gab.

"I talked when I couldn't talk," Jackson said. "That's probably the last time I was speechless."

Ochocinco challenge

When former NFL wide receiver Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson heard Rivera had compared Jackson to Norman, he immediately took to social media and sent out a challenge.

You get the feeling Jackson would embrace that challenge the way Norman did as a rookie when he took on veteran receiver Steve Smith. He even compared himself to Norman, as well as to Jacksonville Jaguars Pro Bowl selection Jalen Ramsey.

"Guys that play with that fire and talk about it," Jackson said. "That's just something I feel every DB should have that type of attitude. Some people call it cocky. Some people call it arrogant. I just call it playing DB. That's just something that comes with it."

Jackson was taught to play this way, but he really didn't have to be. As he mentioned, attitude comes naturally.

"That's something I take a lot of pride in," he said. Though Jackson doesn't have a "Dark Knight" persona, he did have a pre-draft highlight video set to the song "Dark Queen." The highlights showed him making big plays as an every-down corner as well as a nickelback, positions he'll play for Carolina. They showed him making a sack on a corner blitz and then celebrating by showing his muscles. That's why he likens his game to players such as Norman and Ramsey.

"He talks and lets you know what he's about to do, and he lets you know after he does it," Jackson said of Ramsey. "Marcus Peters [of the Rams] is another guy I like to watch out there. It's fun. I feel like playing secondary, it's funner that way.

"You're out there competing and you talk about it and let them know."

Honey Badger II?

Jackson's goal was to break the combine 40-yard dash record of 4.22 seconds Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross set in 2017. He fell short at 4.32. But adding speed to the secondary was just as much of a priority as swagger for general manager Marty Hurney.

"He's sudden, he's quick, he plays fast," Hurney said of Jackson. "Coverage-wise, he's going to help us in a lot of areas. He can play inside. He can play outside and he can punt-return. We felt very, very good about getting him in the second round."

Jackson also takes a lot of pride in what he calls his football IQ. It's why he gave himself a "pretty high" grade on his first rookie-camp practice.

"Listen to what Coach [Eric] Washington has got to say and try to converge it to the field," he said of Carolina's first-year defensive coordinator. "That was one of my strengths [in college], being able to bring from the film room to the meetings, from the meetings to the field. That was something I was always good at since my sophomore year.

"Getting to do it at the professional level, where it's really, really critical, that's important to me to make sure I can come out here every day and make sure I can convert everything I learn into practice."

Jackson has been compared to another former LSU safety, Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu, now with Houston after five seasons with Arizona.

"When you look at his skill set, there are going to be some [comparisons]," Rivera said. "There really are. Look at what James Bradberry does for us on the big wide receivers. You pare that down and you get the 5-foot-8, 5-foot-9, 5-foot-10 receivers that are quick -- we have a guy that can match him now."

Action Jackson

Jackson already has a name and nickname for his unborn daughter, who is due in late June. Demi Dalia and "Baby Action Jackson."

But for now, Jackson's action is focused on making himself and first-round pick D.J. Moore, a wide receiver out of Maryland, better in practice. This is fair warning to Moore and Carolina's other receivers to be ready for trash talking -- particularly Moore, who tends to be on the quiet side.

"It's hard not to talk back to me, because I'm just going to keep going," Jackson said. "They'll get used to it, though."

NFL receivers in general had better get ready for Jackson's talking like they were when facing Norman, who after a 2015 battle against then-Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant said the Cowboys "need to get Dez's $70 million back."

"I play with confidence," Jackson said. "I'm going to talk about it ... walk it like I talk it."

Indeed, it comes naturally.

"Nah," Jackson said when asked if he had to learn to be that way. "I was born with it."